Church of the Gesú, Palermo, Sicily, Italy

The Church of the Gesú, also known as Church of Saint Mary of Gesu, was the first Jesuit church in Sicily and one of the most important baroque churches in the whole of Italy. The Jesuits arrived in Palermo in 1549 and in the late 16th century began building a church next to Casa Professa, a college for religious studies. The original design for the church was a single nave with large transepts and side chapels, but the original design by Giovanni Tristano was altered in the early 1600s to reflect the more grandiose layout synonymous with Jesuit architecture of its time. The chapel’s dividing walls were removed, opening up the structure, a decision we can be thankful for today when visiting this fantastic place. The Church of the Gesú was finally consecrated in 1636. The marble and stucco decoration is simply fantastic, two of the finest examples are the Adoration of the Shepherd (1714) and the Adoration of the Magi (1721) both designed by the renowned stucco artist Giacomo Serpotta but created by Gioacchino Vitagliano. During World War 2 bombing collapsed the church’s dome, damaged many of the surrounding walls and destroyed paintings. Renovation was only finally completed in 2009! I’d highly recommend a visit to this marvellous church, the phenomenal stucco work and the unusual vivid colours of many of its paintings really make it a unique site.

GPS: 38.113, 13.36127

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